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May 25th, 2010
02:39 PM ET

Restaurants take calories to the extreme, report says

By Sabriya Rice
CNN Medical Producer

An estimated 67 percent of U.S. adults over age 20 are overweight or obese - and a new report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest says some popular restaurant chains are contributing to the problem.

The report awards the Extreme Eating 2010 Award  to a total of nine dishes from seven companies.  

“These chains don't promote moderation. They practice caloric extremism, and they're helping make modern-day Americans become the most obese people ever to walk the Earth," stated CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson in a press release.

The report highlights for example that a Five Guys bacon cheeseburger with a large order of fries adds up to 2,380 calories, and that P.F. Chang’s double pan-fried noodle combo, which includes beef, pork and chicken, comes to about 1,820 calories.  One meal can put a person close to – or well over – the 2000 -2500 calories  per day the USDA recommends for the average person to maintain a healthy weight.

A spokesperson from P.F. Chang’s says the nutritional information for the double pan-fried noodles combo is inaccurate. The company notes that according to the website, the dish contains only 455 calories per serving, and the serving size is for four people. However the CSPI says, that wording can often be misleading.

“One of the oldest tricks in the book is to say that a given plate of food serves X number of people,” says the CSPI. “While people do often share at Chinese restaurants it's hard to imagine four people sharing this and nothing else!”

CNN received responses from two of the other restaurant chains mentioned in the report. California Pizza Kitchen – which was cited for two dishes, including a pesto cream penne pasta that amounted to 1,350 calories before any meat was added – says it offers a wide variety of menu choices and that, most often, its pizzas are shared. “We welcome our guests to modify any of our menu items to meet their dietary needs," a company spokesman says.  Similarly, Outback Steakhouse said its chefs can customize meals, desserts and drinks to satisfy customers’ specific preferences and dietary needs. Outback says the company was among the first  to offer an online nutritional tool that “ provides [consumers] with all of the information needed to make an informed decision when placing an order.”

In fact, many of the companies in the report currently list their nutritional information right on their websites: Bob Evans; California Pizza Kitchen; Five Guys; P.F. Chang's; Outback Steakhouse; Chevys. Nutritionists say it is a good rule of thumb to check out nutrition information before heading to a restaurant. Also, the USDA and the American Heart Association  offer other useful tips for ways you can eat healthfully when dining out on their websites.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


May 25th, 2010
11:23 AM ET

Lithium batteries a growing swallowing hazard

by Madison Park
CNNhealth writer/producer

From rocks to coins, pacifiers and toys, kids like to taste everyday objects.  But some of these items can be serious choking hazards – take circular batteries.

The 20mm lithium batteries are described as a common culprit in a study published in Pediatrics.

The research published in the journal this week reported a 6.7-fold increase in the percentage of severe outcomes caused by battery ingestion in the last 24 years. The severity of the battery-related incidents has worsened, causing injuries including the destruction of the esophagus, perforation of the aorta and vocal cord paralysis.

The batteries look like buttons somewhere between the size of a nickel and a penny. Or perhaps they even look like candy to a small child, but they pack a punch.  The batteries are large enough to get lodged and obstruct breathing.

Once swallowed, the stuck battery can create a current, burning through the child’s esophagus, airway or even the aorta, said Dr. Toby Litovitz, the executive medical director of the National Poison Center.

Parents should childproof everyday electronics such as calculators, flashlights, cameras and talking books by reinforcing the battery compartment with tape, she advised.  Children can easily snap open the latches to get to the batteries.

iReport: Tell us about your unexpected choking hazards

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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